ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday’s match between Clearwater and Lakewood gave local University of Florida fans a chance to check out two of the Gators’ future players.
Lakewood outside hitter Berkley Whaley orally committed to Florida as a sophomore and has remained steady in her commitment.
Over the summer, Clearwater outside hitter Nikki O’Rourke decided to team up with Whaley and play libero for the Gators.
Before moving to Gainesville, though, the two met in a battle of North vs. South County power.
Score one for the much maligned south.
Spurred by the all-around magnificent play of Whaley plus gutsy performances from the rest of the roster, Lakewood stunned Clearwater 25-18, 27-25, 25-20 on the Spartans’ senior night.
“Berkley’s the ideal superstar you would want on your team,” Lakewood coach Sean O’Flannery said. “She’s the first one to practice. She’s the one at all the open gyms, even when she’s injured; she’ll help toss balls or help me. She gets more excited when the other players get kills than when she does. No attitude. The only time I see attitude is when she’s mad that the team’s not doing what they’re capable of. But she’s the premier kid.”
Against Clearwater, Whaley showed why she is the area’s premier player. The senior had a game-high 13 kills and added three blocks and two assists. In the opening game, she spurred an early 5-0 run with two aces to tie the game after the Tornadoes opened a 6-1 advantage.
Ahead 16-15, Lakewood (10-5) won six of the next seven points.
“It was hard the first couple of points,” Whaley said. “It was still in my head that this was going to be my last time playing at Lakewood. I had to pull out of it because we wanted to beat Clearwater so bad. A lot of teams didn’t think we could do this.”
Lakewood continued playing solidly into the second game and opened a 14-8 lead before Clearwater (9-5) took eight of the next 10 points to tie the score. The Tornadoes were serving for the game at 25-24, but Lakewood’s Manny Tistascon saved the Spartans by getting her fist on a wayward pass and knocking it just over the net and on the line.
Lakewood won the next two points to go up two games to none.
“I think it showed that we wanted it a little bit more,” Whaley said.
Lakewood continued taking advantage of Clearwater serving errors and serve-receive mistakes to close out an impressive sweep.
Besides Whaley, Lakewood was paced by Leigh Buttner (five kills) and Samantha Roberts (four kills, two blocks).
O’Rourke led Clearwater with 12 kills and had two aces. Sophomore outside hitter Allie Russell contributed six kills and Sara Myslicki added four more.